By Niall Gartland
BALLYCRAN and Portaferry is the final many in Down hurling circles expected, it’s becoming somewhat of a norm at this stage.
When they clash in Newry on Sunday it will be the sixth time in-a-row that they have battled it out for the Jeremiah McVeagh Cup with the ‘Cran holding a 3-2 advantage.
Michael Ennis’ side have not had it all their own way this year though, and they really had to call on all their battling qualities to avoid a shock semi-final loss to Liatorim, a game marred by some late unruly scenes.
They’re stronger this year with the addition of county sharp-shooter Paul Sheehan and their team really does ooze class with the likes of captain Liam Savage, the evergreen Conor Woods, Michael Hughes and Scott Nicholson bringing real quality across the pitch.
Gerard McGrattan’s Portaferry can boast likewise, of course. Matt Conlan will lead the side out and he’s a real driving force from around the middle while the Sands, Daithi and Eoghan, will carry a lot of their offensive threat alongside Conor O’Prey. Caolan Taggart is an absolute rock at the back.
Portaferry had less drama in their semi-final victory despite the concession of an early goal to Ballygalget. They led by just two points at the break, but that was out to nine by the finish – Daithi Sands with both goals while Paddy Doran kept the scoreboard ticking.
For those who believe in such matters, seven of Portaferry’s last nine titles have come in a year ending in an even number. By contrast, seven of Ballycran’s last eight titles have come in a year ending with an odd number.
When the margins feel so thin, maybe silly omens can be used as the deal-breaker.